How To See Palestine: An ABC of Occupation

L is for Land

On my first day, the first visit we made was to Aida Camp. And the first word we heard from Mohammed, a local activist, was 'land.' For those of us who live in cities, land is an abstraction, somewhere deep beneath the building in which we live, or disciplined into being a 'garden' in the suburbs. Technically, it becomes 'real estate,' with the word 'real' being derived from an obsolete way of saying 'royal.' Land is power. Even today, the billionaire running for president is a real estate tycoon, not a financier. Real estate is real power.

Land is something else. It's a very personal attachment, developed through taste and time. The land in Palestine--or at least in the 'West Bank'--is not forgiving. As you can see above, the red soil has to be separated from the omnipresent limestone. Any cultivation is achieved at high cost of human and animal labor.

The results can be so beautiful. Every day that we were in Palestine, the light would become miraculous at about 6.15pm and stay that way for about half an hour or forty five minutes. The sun sets to the West over the Mediterranean, creating an extraordinary luminosity. 

Palestinians take pride in offering you their own olive oil, fruit grown on their land, herbs harvested in their neighborhood. These tastes and attachments are what return is about and why another place will not do. 

You might say that such taste is old-fashioned, a peasant-economy that has no place in the non-stop global commodity market. Or you might reflect that the disaster of environmental catastrophe ought to make us look again at how land creates meaning and taste, not just power. Your call.

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